Acceptance Letters: Parents, college and letting go

Me, Myself & I: Time Alone as an Empty Nester

Elizabeth Weinstein
October 9, 2013

In a reversal of that helicopter hovering we hear so much about—parents who don’t think grown children can remember what to do—I told my son that he would have to call us from Kenyon every morning this fall so that his father and I would remember to get up.

This past summer, my husband and I got out of the habit of setting an alarm; summer-morning breezes wafting in, we woke up when we did and then sat with coffee, reluctant to break the spell of our unfocused conversation.

Meanwhile, our responsible son bicycled off at 6:30 a.m. to his job at the golf course Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, and readied himself for his job at the library Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. This fall, the sound of his shower isn't  there to remind us it’s our turn next. We have jobs too, of course (indeed, there are big bills to pay), but without a school schedule to catapult us into lunches and bells, what will make us get up and sally forth?

Joining his sister at Kenyon, our son is our second and last child to leave home, the second and last child we read books to, walked to school, taught to ride a bike and split wood, sat up with during illness, celebrated or commiserated with, said goodbye to. He is as ready for college as most Kenyon freshmen, I expect, and he leaves behind home with the usual mixture of excitement, apprehension, ambition, and hope.

How will I manage?

Oh, I know what you’re thinking. But it’s not usually all about me. I am not a prima donna in the household. In fact, during the last 20 years, I’ve thought so much about what makes healthy kids—loving guidance but not over-praising, chores and activities but not overscheduling—that these concerns probably overshadowed others about myself. Now both my children are gone and I’ve allowed myself the occasional moan and groan: What will I do without them? My husband sighs and points out that this is how it’s supposed to be, after all. But I don’t think he understands. I’m not just saying that I’ll miss them. But without either of those two young people around—the ones who paid attention and entertained us and grew up out of the nest we feathered--it suddenly is me just back with me again.